Rev. John Kha Tran

An old Man, a Boy and a Donkey...

An old man, a boy and a donkey, were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Then, later, they passed some people who remarked, 'What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.' So they then decided they'd both walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey.

Now they passed some people who shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and man figured they were probably right, so they decide to carry the donkey.

As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.

The moral of the story is: If we allow others to dictate how to live our lives, we might end up losing what we have. Of course it is wise to listen to others’ opinions, but we should not allow their opinions to run our lives and conducts. The only opinion we have to obey and follow is God’s opinion. St. Peter eloquently says in the first reading, “We must obey God’s rather than men.”

Public Opinions

In a democratic world, it is important for politicians to listen to the voice of the people. The voice of the people tells politicians what they should do to get their votes. If they listen well to the voice of the people they would be elected and be the winners. If they do not listen to what people want, they will lose their votes and be defeated by their opponents. What is happening in Thailand for the last few weeks with the Red T-Shirts protesters is an example of democratic politics. People are voicing their frustration and disapproval of their government. In the United State we have the Tea Party movement. They are gathering in different cities around the nation to voice their concerns, disapproval and frustration with the Obama’s administration. Politicians and political candidates are watching and listening carefully when they go out to run their campaigns for public offices. Any politician who read and understand public opinions well will be the winner.

In the business world it is also important for business owners to understand the consumers’ demands. Their products must meet the demands from consumers. They also have to compete for customers with good products and attractive prices. Recently Wal-Mart has been named as the number one retail company this year because it meets the consumers’ demands, and Wal-Mart is also competitive in prices.

Dealing with the clergy sexual abuse scandals in the Church, some anti-Catholic groups also gathering in Rome or in front of other Cathedral to protest the authority of the Church. The secular media is also using this democratic approach to evaluate the validity of the leadership in the Catholic Church. There are headlines undermining the credibility of the Church and the Pope. Many people are blaming the leaderships in the Church. Based on the results of some polls taken recently, some analysts are saying that the scandals may accelerate the drift away from the Catholic Church. Others say that the abuse scandal imperils Pope Benedict’s crusade to reclaim Christianity in Europe. Philip Portier, director of the Group on Society, Religious and Secularity at the French National Center for Scientific Research said, “The pedophilia scandals are seriously weakening the project to re-Christianize Europe. The Church will have great difficulty in regaining the confidence even of it’s’ activists who are essential of putting the goal of re-Christianizing Europe into action.”

Catholic Approach

There is no doubt that we, Catholics, are hurt, saddened, remorseful and embarrassed of the scandals of clergy sexual abuses of children in the Church. Some Catholics are disheartening; some are shaking in their faith and might be contemplating to leave the Catholic Church. Some might agree with the secular voice demanding the resignation of the Holy Father. But the majority of our Catholic people are praying more for the purification, sanctification and renewal of the Church and all members of the Church.

For me, definitely the Church will continue to be here and growing. I am hopeful and confident that the Church will continue to be strengthened and become stronger, neither because the Church is without defects nor because we are not at faults, but because the Church is not the Church of Pope Benedict or of the cardinals or the bishops, but because it is the Church of Jesus Christ. Christ is the founder of the Church. The Pope was chosen under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our faith tradition believes that it is God’s will that the Pope was elected. Jesus’ words are still heard in the Church, “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:18-19).

For the disciples, after the death of Jesus, it was over. They returned to their old jobs of being fishermen. Peter told the others, “I am going fishing.” There was nothing else for them to do. Jesus was no longer there with them physically. People were not following them. They also did not have any power or authority to do anything else other than going fishing. Sadly they had no luck either. They spent the whole night without catching any fish. It might have been too long that they had not done the fishing. But when Jesus appeared along the shore, He helped them to catch an unusual catch of fish.

Like Peter, what Jesus is looking for in the Church and in every member of the Church is the renewal of our commitment to his cause. He asked Peter three times, “Do you love me more than these?” What does Jesus means by saying “these”? Who are the “these” that Jesus is talking about? Do “these” means the other disciples? Or their nets? their boats? Their old friends? Their money? Or their old families? Their sins? Their fear? Their disappointment? Their unbeliefs? Jesus is also asking us this question, “Do you love me more than these?” What are the “these” to which Jesus is comparing with your commitment to him?